Updated: Jun 3
This Wednesday 3rd June marks one year since I said goodbye to Dave at Three Counties Equine Hospital. After an x-ray, scintigraphy, an MRI scan and an operation to remove a nasty abscess from his hoof, Dave was still severely lame, and the vets were unsure what was wrong. This second MRI was his last chance and if they found something bad, they weren’t going to wake him up.
I drove to the equine hospital with my mum that morning, trying not to think too much about what I was about to do. I spoke with Becky, the main vet who had been looking after Dave for the past couple of months.
I asked her what would happen if he didn’t pull through and if I could have his ashes. I asked her if she would keep some of his tail for me so that I could have a bracelet or other keepsake made with it to remember him – a common request I was told.
I remember Becky saying how mature I was in the questions I was asking and how I kept myself composed. My response was that if I let my emotions come out now, they’d be dealing with a hysterical woman crying in one of their stables!
After spending some time with him in his stable, mum left me alone to say goodbye and give him his favourite treat, a banana. When we left the hospital, all I could do was wait to hear from the team later that evening.
Due to the uncertainty of what was wrong with Dave and why he kept going so lame so suddenly, the veterinary team had a couple of vets from America on standby to observe the scan and offer their advice. It seemed like a pretty big deal and a situation you would expect to happen with an elite, highly valuable eventer – not a goofy Irish cob called Dave (although he is priceless to me).
Mum and I sat at the kitchen table for five hours that night. The MRI was initially delayed, so Becky called shortly before they were taking him in. Time seemed to go so slowly, and it was one of the most stressful evenings of my life. My brain kept switching every other minute from ‘he’ll be fine’ to ‘he’s gone’. It was horrible.
Finally, my phone rang and Becky said the MRI had been done and they were just waiting for him to come round. She would call me again when he was awake. I didn’t know anything more than that – whether they had found anything, whether he needed an operation, whether he would have to be retired. So many scenarios whizzed round my head, but if they were waking him up then surely, he must be ok?
Another 45 minutes passed before Becky called to explain their findings. It turned out to be something they had never seen before and their colleagues in America had come across it perhaps only once or twice in their careers. A thrombosis in the hoof. Essentially, a blood clot in the wall of his hoof.
After months of tests, scans, two hospitalisations, lots of money spent and lots of tears, it turned out that the treatment for this ailment was one of the cheapest drugs on the market – aspirin! Dave was to be given a dose of tablets every day, crushed into his food, for the next three months. As this was unfamiliar territory for the vets, they couldn’t really advise on a long-term prognosis and whether the aspirin would even work. It would be a question of giving it a go and hoping for the best.
Luckily, when Dave came off the aspirin in September and started his five-month rehab programme, he remained sound and has been fine ever since. He had to build up his fitness before he could return to Cotswold RDA and his day job, but he hasn’t gone lame since and we’re hopeful that this was a one-off, very strange issue that won’t happen again.
I wasn’t expecting to have Dave home for a long holiday again so soon, but when the Coronavirus lockdown hit, he was delivered to my field with his mate Gaelen for an extended break. I’ll be honest, I’m just so glad this has happened during the better months of the year! Another winter like the one we just experienced would have been tough going, but it’s been lovely to enjoy the boys’ company in the sunshine and spend some time outdoors with them.
I’ll be giving Dave an extra big hug on Wednesday and telling him how much I love him. I wasn’t ready to lose him last year, but it did give me the motivation I needed to crack on with my Dave and Darcy stories, and I hope he’s around to inspire me for many more years to come.